The accounting industry is facing substantial changes over the next three decades. Evolving technology, continued globalization and new forms of regulation are becoming major challenges for the accounting field. As a result, accountants, companies, and schools need to make substantial changes in the way they operate. Here is an inside look at what’s on the horizon for the accounting profession.
Accountants will use more sophisticated technology to enhance their work processes. For example, smart software systems such as cloud computing will increase the use of outsourcing services. Also, smart technology will improve collaboration, disclosure, and engagement with stakeholders and broader communities. In addition, Facebook, Twitter, Google search and other social media will reveal more data, such as alternative reporting, than any corporate assurance report. Furthermore, stakeholders will have more tools to interpret big data.
Greater globalization will create additional opportunities and challenges for accountants. For example, an increase in overseas outsourcing and transfer of technical and professional skills will continue posing threats to resolving local problems with varying cultural, financial and tax systems. Because accounting firms in the United States, European Union, and Australia are reducing costs by outsourcing accounting services to India and China, accounting employment in the West will be affected.
Increased regulation and related disclosure rules will impact the accounting profession. For example, due to substantial tax avoidance, transfer pricing, and money laundering, many tax accountants will be affected by intergovernmental tax action to limit base erosion and profit-shifting.
Social and Environmental Changes
Due to increased public pressures and stakeholder expectations, companies are looking beyond financial issues and becoming more concerned about social and environmental issues. As a result of new regulations toward social and environmental issues, companies are facing challenges in finding long-term answers to complex problems involving financial, social and environmental performance. For example, new forms of regulation, such as integrated reporting (IR) required for South African-listed companies and supply chain transparency disclosures required for many California-based companies, require accountants to modify their work processes to accommodate the changes. Also, the measurement and reporting complexities of social and environmental issues require accountants to enhance collaboration among members of various professions, such as doctors, attorneys, environmental scientists, and sociologists.
Because accountants need to stay current on digital technology, globalization and evolving regulations, school and professional development curriculums need to be updated. For example, accountants need to become proficient in cloud computing and use of big data. Also, accountants need to stay current with evolving tax regulation, forms of corporate reporting and integrated reporting regulation so they comply with changing regulations and forms of disclosure and are aware of how financial and nonfinancial reporting are connected. Therefore, schools need to develop classes on cloud computing, big data, digital technology and integrated reporting. Also, professional accounting organizations need to partner with schools to provide experts in those accounting topics who can teach classes.
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